There’s an added weight to being a local football player: staying home to play for the Arizona Wildcats.
Especially when that decision is made before a senior season.
There’s more eyes, coming from the UA fan base, checking out the future.
Cam Denson dealt with that in 2013, and he did just fine — Denson scored 32 touchdowns for Salpointe Catholic as a senior, and won a state title.
In 2014, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles was the guy, but because of some eligibility issues — he transferred from Tucson High to Mountain View before his senior season — he didn’t play a single game the year before joining the Wildcats.
Then, last year, defensive lineman Justin Holt played out his senior season as the first commit in Arizona’s 2016 class, and finished with 79 tackles and 4.5 sacks as Salpointe came down to earth in a 5-5 campaign.
This time, it’s Sabino’s Drew Dixon at the head of the pack. Catalina Foothills’ quarterback Rhett Rodriguez is an Arizona commit for 2017, too, but Dixon is considered the top recruit in the area.
No pressure, right?
“The thing about Drew is,” said Sabino coach Jay Campos, “he’s a very, very good player. There’s no question about that. We’re lucky to have him on our football team.”
The Sabercats had an impressive 2015 campaign, finishing 8-2 with a loss to Phoenix Cesar Chavez in the state playoffs, and it was with Dixon leading the team at quarterback.
Sabino opens its season on Thursday night with a home game against Sahuaro at 7 p.m.
Last year at quarterback, Dixon threw for 1,146 yards and 17 touchdowns, amassing 446 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. This season, Sabino won’t need him as much at quarterback. Rather, they’ll use him everywhere.
With Alex Bell at quarterback — the junior saw some snaps last year — Campos has more freedom, and confidence, to move Dixon around.
Campos said he expects Dixon to see time at receiver, in the slot, at running back and, occasionally, at quarterback.
“It allows us to be more flexible in our offense,” Campos said. “So as far as teams trying to defend him and know where he’s gonna be at all the time, there’s no way to predict that, because I don’t even know at this point.”
Added Dixon: “It’s been fun. I’ve been blessed with athleticism and to be able to use it all around the field is really fun.”
That bodes well for his future at Arizona. Dixon, listed at 6 foot, 4 inches, was recruited to Arizona as an athlete — he’s rated the top athlete in Arizona by Scout.com, and a three-star recruit — but is expected to play receiver and/or tight end in college. UA coaches also told Dixon he’d still get a shot at quarterback, too, but with the logjam of talent at the position — Anu Solomon, Brandon Dawkins, Khalil Tate, Rodriguez and 2017 commit Braxton Burmeister are all expected to be around — he’s more likely to play pass-catcher.
He hasn’t spent too much time catching passes at Sabino, as he’s tallied just 21 catches for his career and none the last two years, but those numbers are poised to rise for his senior season.
“He’s been on varsity since his freshman year, so the good thing about that is he’s played receiver his first two years anyway,” Campos said. “Last year, once Alex Bell started to mature a little bit, we were able to put Drew at a different spot, allow him to do some different things that were more conducive to us being spread and getting down the field.”
As for that pressure — Dixon doesn’t seem too worried. If anything, he’s relieved.
“It’s been a relief,” said Dixon, who had offers from Hawaii, New Mexico, San Jose State and New Mexico State. “I know exactly what college I’m going to go to, so I can go this senior year focusing on my team, focusing on having a fun senior year.”